Cape Cod Rail Trail

Dennis to Eastham, MA
Key Elements
  • Rail trail design improvements  
  • Environmental permitting  
  • Topographic survey 

Under an on-call contract with the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR), Nitsch completed a number of assignments related to the permitting and construction of various improvements for the Rail Trail, a multi-use trail that stretches 22 miles from Route 134 in Dennis to LeCount Hollow Road in Wellfleet. Spanning the communities of Dennis, Harwich, Brewster, Orleans, Eastham, and Wellfleet, the trail has become a popular way to see the Mid-Cape and attracts over 400,000 users per season.  

In 2005, the multi-use trail was determined to be too narrow, needing safety improvements to better meet the needs of its many users, repair root-heaved pavements, improve intersection crossing safety, and stabilize embankments. Nitsch provided land surveying and civil/transportation engineering services associated with permitting these corridor-wide improvements and developing construction documents for reconstruction of specific sections of the trail.  

Nitsch developed a project approach to upgrade the trail’s paved path from eight feet wide to 10 feet wide, which was accepted by the five affected Conservation Commissions. We prepared an Improvement Report and Environmental Notification Form (ENF) to permit the recommended corridor-wide improvements, and prepared Notices of Intent to obtain Orders of Conditions from the five affected communities. To prevent future slope erosion by trail users and stormwater, Nitsch used bioengineering techniques along with traditional slope revegetation to stabilize the slopes. 

Unifying the 18 miles of mapping with a survey control network was a crucial component to attaining the project’s goals. To gather existing information necessary for permits and design, Nitsch’s surveyors used the horizontal and vertical control of this network to perform topographic surveys at environmentally sensitive and specific deteriorated locations throughout the 18 miles to locate utilities, wetland flags, culverts, and general topography.  

Nitsch also assisted DCR (in partnership with Coastal Zone Management) in restoring the salt marsh at the Boat Meadow Creek crossing. We prepared construction documents and permitted the replacement of a restrictive 36-inch diameter culvert with a six-foot-wide by four-foot-high box culvert at the Trail’s crossing of the Boat Meadow River.

Key Collaborators

Owner: Department of Conservation and Recreation